Saturday, March 15, 2014

Grace Poe for president?

DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco The Philippine Star


People keep asking me what my thoughts are about 2016. Some even ask with a sigh of resignation if Jojo Binay is inevitable. I tell them it is too early to make bold predictions. So many things could happen between now and 2016.

I do not normally get off the hook with an answer like that. Many concerned citizens probe me with a barrage of questions and I sense they are hoping I will confirm their own gut feel about 2016.

I can understand why some are worried. Many are not too impressed about the performance of P-Noy, but are also concerned that the successor may bring us back to the bad old days.

“At least P-Noy is not a thief” is a common observation I get. True enough, without P-Noy’s reputation for honesty, we wouldn’t have attained the level of credibility among investors that pushed our macroeconomic numbers up… even attaining investor grade credit status.

But Daang Matuwid has also become a joke even to those who supported P-Noy at the start. The improved macro economic numbers and the bullish stock market seem like an accidental development. Investors merely scampered for safe havens from the problematic Western economies and maybe we just got lucky.

Still, the money came here because they trusted P-Noy. Money from America’s massive QE program could have gone elsewhere in the emerging markets if we had a president whose reputation isn’t as clean as P-Noy’s. That’s why the next president has to exude an honest image.

Since many investors think of at the minimum, five-year horizons, there could be some who would think twice about investing here because 2016 makes things uncertain. We have to convince potential investors there would be continuity in terms of clean leadership…

No, they don’t want a clean Mar Roxas who is incapable of making decisions. Honesty is a must but leadership is important too. Mar’s performance, or lack of it, the past few years killed his chances. The next president has to be decisive.

If it is just Mar vs Jojo Binay, many would close their eyes, breathe deeply and take a chance on Jojo. The country has to move fast to make up for the turtle pace of developments now.

Folks can be forgiven for clinging to the hope that Jojo, at the twilight of his years, will want to be remembered as a great president. He will do everything to be the statesman we need, for legacy sake… even turn a new leaf if necessary.

I have no doubt a President Binay will be a decisive president with strong political skills. But Jojo’s problem is his reputation, deserved or not. Many are worried he could be another Marcos.

Jojo is the best organized at the moment to claim the presidency if the election is held today. The senatorial run of his daughter Nancy is a test run of that nationwide machinery Jojo has nurtured for many years. Sen. Nancy’s impressive showing validates the strength of the Binay machine.

For me, the problem I have with Jojo is the company he currently keeps. I know that his alliance with Enrile and Erap is more about political expediency. I am hoping that the human rights lawyer in him will win out in the end and bring about a credible presidency.

What about all those rumors of corruption in Makati’s City Hall during his watch? Did he really get all those condo units from property developers in Makati? Does he really have this large property in Batangas?

I guess once the presidential campaign starts, Jojo will have to address those issues no matter how tiresome or hurtful these may be to him. He owes the people some answers if he wants to gain the level of credibility needed to lead this country.

Jojo cannot disregard these issues or questions raised by the upper socio economic groups. What the educated elite does not have in numbers it more than compensates for in terms of influence on economic movers and shakers here and abroad.

Jojo needs to gain credibility among these people to be an effective president. For one, without that credibility, the country will find it difficult to attract local and foreign investors to create those much needed jobs. And creating those jobs must be top priority in the next administration as it should be now.

The choice of a running mate is thus crucial for Jojo. Choosing Jinggoy is a non starter. Jinggoy brings nothing to the table but heavy baggage. Jojo already has the voters of Jinggoy anyway.

Bringing Jinggoy in his ticket taints it with the pork barrel corruption issues and can only bring him down. A Binay-Jinggoy ticket would be caricatured as corruption personified… double trouble. That may be unfair but a killer perception nevertheless. Kung walang corrupt walang mahirap? The masa now blames corruption for their misery.

Jojo must choose as a running mate someone fresh and with a reputation for making good things happen. A business tycoon like Manny Pangilinan seems ideal. Or better yet, if he can convince Tony Meloto.

Any alternatives to Binay? I can’t see anyone who can beat him in an election. The only one I think who has a chance is an unlikely Senate freshman.

Yes, the candidate who I think will be a smooth transition from P-Noy and can credibly carry the banner of Daang Matuwid is Sen. Grace Poe. It is early days for Sen. Grace, I know, but she has proven to be the most impressive of the current freshman senators.

I have been watching some Senate hearings and Sen. Grace seems the best prepared… incisive in her questions without being obnoxious… has a clear objective of getting to the truth… and does not grandstand to capture headlines. Her championing of the Freedom of Information or FOI bill also shows a tenacity to follow through a campaign promise unlike even P-Noy. That spells integrity.

Frankly, I initially dismissed her as a showbiz candidate out to exploit her father’s popularity… until I heard her speak. There is something in her manner of expressing her thoughts that suggests sincerity and intelligence uncommon among politicians. She has FPJ’s sincerity plus the ability to think intelligently.

I have only met her once, at a party hosted by Sen Serge Osmeña. There is no air of self importance in her that many politicians exude. With the legacy of her father and her own independent upbringing in the United States, I thought we might have a future president in her.

Some people say she is too young… too fresh… But then again, Barack Obama was a freshman senator like Sen. Grace when destiny plucked him to become the first black American president.

The fact that she has not served long enough in the Senate may even be a plus factor for Sen Grace. She is a national leader with a fresh perspective and untainted by the “kalakaran” of the Senate. And the best part of it all is that she has not expressed an interest in running for president.

Sen. Grace should not sell herself short in dealing with the opportunists among the presidential hopefuls who will offer her the vice presidency. She should end conversations by offering them the vice presidency instead, testing their sincerity to serve.

Maybe a slightly showbiz ticket of Grace Poe and Kiko Pangilinan will be sexy enough for the masa but also cater to middle class good governance advocates. But as I said, many things will still happen on the road to 2016. We won’t know for sure if we are headed for more lost years under another failed leadership.

Let us pray that when the time comes for us to choose, we will all miraculously think of the country before anything else. It’s all in our hands, after all.

Bong Aguilar of Nueva Ecija sent me this e-mail.

Dear Boo,
I have been a regular reader of your insightful column in The Philippine Star for many years now. Anyway, with the series of bus accidents in recent weeks, I think the LTFRB should just require bus owners to post a special one time bond with the LTFRB of say P1 million per bus or even higher, for any damages to persons and property caused by their buses after an accident. This bond can then be immediately used by the LTFRB to compensate the victims of accidents and pay for their medical bills.

Of course, this bond would be in addition to the regular accident insurance. The LTFRB should also consider imposing a hefty penalty on bus companies who figure in any accident, whether it was the fault of the driver or not. Keep up the good work, Boo.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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